Translation projects are important and a part of the overall creation of useful content for companies. There are many problems though that may surface during such a project. One of the most important issue faced by a translator is the right understanding of specific terms. Many translators believe that it may be unprofessional to ask for clarification as this could show lack of knowledge, but, on the contrary, asking the right questions and in the right way during a translation project will show that you are going out of your way to deliver an accurate translation.
Questions before the Project
All translation projects should be preceded by obtaining some basic information which will allow you to understand the right context. The first question to ask is: who is the target audience? You should also find out if the client can provide some reference material such as glossaries or any previous translation they have done of similar content. Another key aspect is the tone of the translation because some languages such as Spanish have distinct informal and formal tones.
Questions during the Project
Clients often need to translate documents which are specific to their industry and it is difficult to understand a term or acronym which is used internally in a company. However, make sure to only include questions which you have not been able to search out satisfactory answers for. You should always refer to dictionaries, forums and do a research in the web before contacting a client.
Don´t rush and email your client if you come up with a question in the first page of a text. A good rule of thumb is to read the whole document first or check if the term in question appears more times in the document so that you have more context to understand it.
It is very common to come up with typos in the source document and you should always query your customer if you think there is an error which could change the meaning of a sentence. You will definitely score some points with your client if you identify these type of errors which are usually overlooked.
If you have too many questions which do not prevent you from continuing translating, a good option is to insert the questions as comments, your client can have a look at them once the translation is finished and answer you back inserting comments as well.
The right questions will not bring your value down, rather raise your prestige as a translator who values his clients and aims to deliver a professional translation, turning a one-time customer into a return customer.